Local PPL workers take on mission to restore power in Puerto Rico
PUERTO RICO – For two Lycoming County men, it was a job like no other on an island 1,600 miles from home.
For the past several weeks, Philip Brandt of Hughesville and John Marquette of Montgomery, have been working with fellow PPL Electric Utilities workers to restore power in Puerto Rico, ravaged by Hurricane Maria in late September.
PPL crews are working in the Caguas region of Puerto Rico, south of San Juan in the Central Mountain Region of the island.
They’re restoring power to residents who have not had electricity since the hurricane. One day, they were able to restore electricity to a church’s day care center. On another day, a nursing home got its power back. Working from sunrise to sunset every day, PPL crews say their work is sincerely appreciated by local residents.
“The grace with which the people of Puerto Rico have faced this adversity is inspiring and humbling,” said Brandt, a regional design supervisor for PPL. “Their hospitality and kindness is heartwarming.”
Brandt said his favorite part of the time in Puerto Rico is when he was with crews who drove into a neighborhood for the first time. After introducing himself to the residents and seeing them each day, they got to know each other on a first-name basis.
Marquette, a lineman, said hearing cheers when crews restored power to a school is something that will remain with him. “It’s been thirty days away from my wife and children and it’s a big sacrifice, but the people here really need our help,” he said.
Most of the current PPL contingent of nearly 40 workers and support personnel arrived in Puerto Rico on Jan. 25 and is about to be replaced by a new group of PPL workers. PPL was one of 18 investor-owned utilities in the mainland U.S. who recently traveled to Puerto Rico in a restoration effort coordinated through the Edison Electric Institute, a trade group. Unlike mutual assistance situations here in the continental U.S., crews could not drive their equipment to where it was needed. PPL’s bucket trucks and other vehicles went to Puerto Rico on barges that departed from Norfolk, VA and Lake Charles, LA.
PPL workers in Puerto Rico assisted the Salvation Army on Valentine’s Day, helping to distribute supplies to local residents. PPL employees here in Pennsylvania donated more than $10,000 for the Salvation Army’s work in Caguas.
PPL’s Christopher Gonzalez, who is helping to coordinate the work of PPL crews on the island, said he and his co-workers feel privileged to have a hand in helping the people of Puerto Rico. “To see the joy on the residents’ faces when the lights come back on is special. That’s what it’s all about,” he said. “That alone makes the long days worth it.”